Citizen Panels Vital to County Government
Volunteers fill important advisory roles in Hillsborough County government.
More than 50 boards and committees, comprised mostly of County residents, study and assess a range of matters, and offer suggestions to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. The panels vet ideas and recommend courses of action from the perspective of informed, engaged citizens.
Elected public officials are on a few of the boards and committees. But most of the slots are held by volunteers.How to volunteer
Linda D'Aquila has served on the Commission on the Status of Women since 2009. The Commission has tackled weighty topics, including child sex trafficking, hunger, affordable housing, and challenges faced by women military veterans. Each year, it also nominates candidates for the Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame.
The Commission generally follows a pattern when taking on community matters that need attention. After identifying an issue, it gathers people and groups with expertise in the subject, and encourages them to work toward a common goal. "We're not experts in everything," Linda says. "But we can pull together the people who are."
The positive results of such efforts are fulfilling and inspire the women to do more. "We certainly feel like we're making an impact," she says. "This board gets things done. It's a joy to work with these women."
The Board of County Commissioners is receptive to the panel's recommendations.
Some of the advisory groups are mandated by state law. Others were established by the County. Many perform specific functions and are tethered to County departments, such as the Commission on the Status of Women and the Health Care Advisory Board. Others, such as the Citizens Advisory Committee, review topics of general interest.
Ideal members of County boards and committees have common traits. These volunteers are:
- Open-minded and eager to hear all sides of a matter before forming opinions.
- Innately curious.
- Able to research and reflect without bias. Good panelists avoid preconceived notions when examining a topic.
- Willing to devote time and effort, including attending meetings, to come up with informed suggestions.
Effective boards and committees are sounding boards. They value thorough research, differing viewpoints, and constructive dialog. Ultimately they reach consensus on a recommended solution or action, and forward advice to the Board of County Commissioners.